Police strike back in Sao Paulo: 33 killed

Police killed 33 suspected gang members and searched motorists at roadblocks as officers sought to quell a wave of attacks on police stations, courts and buses that had plunged South America's largest city into fear.

While gang attacks fell off sharply Tuesday, the death toll since the violence began Friday soared to 133 as police struck back at the gangs who had rampaged to protest the prison transfer of their leaders.

Officers "acted within the law, but that doesn't mean we have to let them humiliate us," Marco Antonio Desgualdo, a top Sao Paulo state law enforcement official, told reporters. He did not give specifics about the killings.

Authorities said 33 suspected criminals were killed Tuesday, bringing to 71 the number of suspected gang members killed since Friday night, Sao Paulo's state government said in a statement. The statement said 40 police officers and jail guards and four civilians were also killed.

Nine inmates died in the jails administered by the state government's public security agency, said spokeswoman Carolina Farias. And nine prisoners died in prisons overseen by the state government's separate penitentiary division, the agency said in a statement. Neither Farias nor penitentiary spokesman Marcelo Daniel knew how they died.

With guns drawn Tuesday, plainclothes police in a suburb of South America's largest city stopped and frisked motorists in a hunt for more gang members.

The crime spree showed the strength of organized crime in the financial and industrial heart of Brazil, and it sent fear rippling through the metropolis of 18 million, reports the AP.

I.L.